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Mr Hickson also attributes the careless manner in which Knight printed the play to his having “prejudged the question ”of authorship (N. Sh. Tr. 1874, I. 26*).
Knight's text is little more than a reprint of that of 1778, with a few changes, not always for the better, one or two readings in some degree worthy of him, and many marks of perfect indifference about the accuracy of the text.
Dyce, following soon after with his ed. of B. and F., pointed out many blunders of preceding editors, and Knight in the 2nd ed. of the “ Pictorial ” adopted the majority of Dyce's corrections, and indeed may be said to have based his revised text exclusively upon Dyce's. Except that Knight's second text might afford some corroboration of Dyce's authority, it possesses no intrinsic value, and cannot be regarded as an independent critical effort. A few passages have been excluded from the text on the score of grossness, but, as is usual in “ bowdlerised ” editions, others just as obnoxious have been retained.
8. ED. DYCE. B. and F. 1843–6, eleven vols. It is unnecessary to speak at any length of this masterly work, which must long remain the standard edition of these authors. The text and notes are of real importance, and, considering the great extent of the undertaking, wonderfully accurate. In the second edition of his Shakspere, Dyce admitted the 2 V. K. (adopting the division made by Spalding in his Letter, &c. 1833), and revised the text and notes carefully. The 3rd edition, 1876, with Dyce's latest corrections, has been taken as the basis of this revised text, and I have to thank Messrs Chapman and Hall for their kindness in enabling me to use the proof-sheets for some time before the actual publication of the eighth vol. of Dyce. This last edition, so far as the 2 N. K. is concerned, is almost exactly the same as that of 1867, even such a slip as is made in the Preface (Dyce's Sh. vol. viii. p. 117), where it is stated that our play is printed “in the folios of Shakespeare, 1664 and 1685," remaining uncorrected."
9. ED. H. TYRRELL. “ Doubtful Plays,” in one vol. s. a. I had not been able to obtain access to a copy of this edition until April, 1876, when I found that Mr Tyrrell had occasionally anticipated me in my restorations of the old readings. But I also found that he had followed the Quarto as an absolute and infallible guide (even in punctuation) in many places where I had felt myself compelled to depart from its authority. All Mr Tyrrell's most important readings have been noted in the critical collation affixed to the revised text, but I studied his edition too late to be able to insert his readings among my general notes. The annotations are worthless, being based chiefly upon Mr Seward's ; and the text is occasionally so bad (e. g. V. iv. 10) that one cannot help thinking that its special merits are due rather to the accuracy of the Quarto text than to the editor's judicious discrimination.
10. ED. SKEAT, 1875. A school edition, with Introduction,
· Mr W. C. Hazlitt repeats this mistake in his ed. of Hazlitt's Eliz. Literature (Bell and Daldy, 1870, p. 119, n.): but Mr Hazlitt is, I regret to say, not conspicuous for his accuracy. (e. g. contrast the prefatory note with the mistakes or inaccurate quotations on pp. 30, 37, 75, 88, 106, 127, etc.)
Notes, critical and explanatory, and Index of words explained, by the Rev. W. W. Skeat, M.A. (Pitt ress, Cambridge). recommend this (the first) edition, for its systematic and apparently laborious preparation, but cannot speak very highly of the text and some of the critical notes, as they seem to be : (a) not up to dateMr Skeat collated no edition later than Dyce's first (1843-6), and consequently lost both Dyce's later corrections and the revisions of Knight's second edition ; (b) excessively expurgated-at least the moral purification of the text has occasionally engendered much critical corruption-this however is but a matter of individual opinion, and need not be insisted on; (c) inaccurately collated and revised, leading Mr Skeat (1) to propose (p. 119, 1. 112; p. 150, 1. 15) as conjectural emendations two readings which appear in the old editions : (2) to misquote preceding texts in the critical notes : (3) to neglect some important old readings. These faults, however, are due to hasty execution of the work, and will doubtless be corrected in a new edition. The general plan is excellent; and many illustrative and explanatory notes are, as was to be expected, very suggestive. The Introduction, however, is plainly the work of a scholar new to the subject; and is decidedly disappointing. We find in it Mr Skeat's usual regularity of arrangement and inclusive plan of treatment, but we miss the firmness of grasp and thoroughness of execution which render his editions of Early English texts so serviceable. The Introduction,treating of the various questions of origin, authorship, date, evidence, tests, opinjon, etc.,-appears to have been written before Mr Skeat had reached that stage of knowledge of his subject at which the work of preceding inquirers, so far as un-original, becomes merged in and replaced by the productions of his own independent and special researches. A student, tolerably familiar with his materials, cannot afford to take his information at second-hand : does not do so, at least, without sufficient verification of his authorities. This indicates a capital defect in Mr Skeat’s prefatory remarks,--he has in certainly two instances of importance suffered loss by not taking his materials at first-hand. In one case, he misses all that is of the slightest interest-viz. Elizabeth's criticisms-in Wood's accounts of Edwarde's play acted before the queen at Oxford, by quoting Knight's meagre excerpt from one of Wood's narratives, in place of hunting up the originals (as given, for example, by Nicholls, Progr. of Eliz.; see Introduction to the present edition) under date 1566. But Mr Skeat had a more serious loss in not studying Mr Spalding's Letter, etc., the most important dissertation (Mr Hickson's review hardly excepted,) yet published on the preliminary considerations about the authorship of this play. Mr Skeat contents himself (p. xv) with quoting (and not quite literally) three lines from Mr Spalding's Letter (p. 61), which lines are to be found (also quoted inexactly) in Mr Hickson's paper (p. 29*). Moreover, Mr Skeat repeats the careless slip made at p. 26* of the Transactions, where the signature is wrongly given.'
· Skeat, Introd. p. xv. : "a letter signed J. S.” F., note in N. S. Trans. 74, pt. I. p. 26: "The Preface is signed J. S.” The Letter has no " Preface"-it has Mr Spalding's initials on the last page (111) :-"W. S."
The pity of it is that Mr Skeat's Introduction omits demonstration of the many really valuable arguments put forward by Spalding at the outset of his consideration--deductions from various points of external probability, historical evidence, etc. Certainly, opinion must play an important part in an examination of the kind, but it might rest on as firm a basis of fact and logical inference as could possibly be got together, remembering that conviction
“must be grounded
(Ford, Broken Heart, III. i.) I have derived a good deal of help from Mr Skeat's book, and I believe I have in every case acknowledged my obligation, even so far as occasionally, when we happened to coincide, giving my note the benefit of Mr Skeat's authority. I am also indebted to Mr Skeat for many valuable communications, for which I sincerely thank him ; and, I may be allowed to add, he has only his own high reputation as a scholar to thank for the detailed, perhaps excessively minute, criticisms I have ventured to make upon his book.
The following sources should also be mentioned as important :
a. Heath's MS. notes, quoted by Dyce.
6. Monck Mason's Comments on the Plays of B. and F. 1798 : containing some comparatively good notes.
6. Sidney Walker's Critical Examination of the Text of Shakespeare. Walker's notes are especially valuable for the metrical rearrangements of particular passages, suggested by him.
d. Dr C. M. Ingleby and Dr B. Nicholson, two of my felloweditors for our Society, have had the kindness to send me some important critical and illustrative comments upon this play, all of which will be found among the general notes to the revised text. I beg to return both these gentlemen my earnest thanks for their assistance. Dr Nicholson is at present preparing a complete edition of the “ Doubtful Plays,"— I do but hope that the present edition may, as far as possible, serve to lighten his work on one such play.
Present edition. The plan of this edition is Mr Furnivall's, the execution my own. In at least one respect, I heartily agree with Mr Furnivall's design, viz. in the retention (as far as possible) of the old forms of spelling in the revised text. Modernised Shakspere may be very well for people who won't read him at all if he is “ wrongly spelt ;” but surely scholars should rather seek to have his works, if not possibly as they were written, at least certainly as they were pronounced. Who ever wades through Dryden's Palamon and Arcite in preference to the old Knightes Tale? Who has ever suggested that we should discard old Homer's dialect, and robe that ancient person's poetry in modern Greek?
And if modernisation be once granted, who will shew us where to draw the line? Are we to hew down our author to the most sweet understandings of his readers? or may we hope that by
leaving him above them a little they may eventually reach him, and that without their suffering either “sickness in will, or wrestling strength in reason?”
But I should have been better satisfied if dire Necessity (in this instance, not Mr Furnivall, but the common custom of F.ditors) had spared me and my readers the infliction of explanatory notes. Let us have various readings to any extent, and a carefully prepared text, but why must the wretched student of modern Shakspere go wading through a vast quagmire of critical opinion and confutation, before he is allowed to catch a glimpse of the pure Shakspere stream, as it gleams faintly and far out over the tangled mazes of this dismal editorial swamp?
The present is only a trial-edition, in which some attempt is made to place the oldest texts before the student, to bring the chief editorial variations into a serviceable focus, and to supply a concise summary of the most important criticisms and explanations. I have done my best to render the criticism and explanations useful to the general student, but the first commentators on this play struck a note so “compact of jars," that even the last two editors have not succeeded in reducing this critical discord to an uniformly harmonious tone. To this variorum selection, in deference to the ground-plan of this edition, further notes have been added, which the reader might have had the luck to have been spared, but for certain contributions from friendly hands which induced me to let mine own ill-favoured attempts go forth in such respectable company. After all, notes are but excrescences, necessary evils; and so long as folk accept the variorum theory of Shakspere study, so long must they submit to commentaries that are incomparable (save to Dr Parr's wig) in their immensity and density. We have “bowdlerised” editions in plenty; when will the Hercules come who will bowdlerise the editors ? when the critic who, taking his stand at 1700, will give us adequate collations of the old texts, and concise explanations of any real difficulties; who though he may read the commentators for his private delectation, will let us hear nothing of them,-preferring instead to disclaim all originality, and so truly to become-original? Till then the editors and not the editee must hold first place in the general student's mind.
In addition to the gentlemen already mentioned, I beg to acknowledge my obligations to Professors J. K. Ingram, R. Atkinson, and E. Dowden, of Trinity College, Dublin ; to Rev. A. S. Palmer, Mr F. J. Furnivall, and to my fellow-members of the “Mermaid Shakspere Club," for many valuable suggestions and corrections. The whole Society owes a fresh debt of gratitude to Mr P. A. Daniel for his kindness in allowing his copy of the Quarto to be used for the purposes of this reprint.
* Q. Quarto, 1634.
Denoted by O. Edd. * F. or F2. B. and F., 2d Fol. 1679.
when they agree. * T. or ed. 1711. Tonson's ed. 7 vols.
* S. or ed. 1750. (Se. =) Seward, (Sy. =) Sympson, (Th. =) Theobald's ed. 1750.
Heath. Heath's MS. notes, quoted by Dyce.
* C. or Edd. 1778. Colman, or the Editors (or ed., the edition) of 1778.
Mason. Comments by Monck Mason, 1798.
Knight's “ Pictorial,” second ed.
. * Sk. Skeat's ed. 1875. * D. ('76). Dyce's Sh., third ed. (vol. viii.) 1876. D. ('67, '76) shews that both have the same reading. K. shews that Knight's reading is the same in all his edd. D. shews that Dyce's reading is the same in all his edd.
Note. Where similar readings differ only in immaterial points of spelling or type, I have given the spelling as in the oldest of the several editions.
For convenience of reference, the number of the lines in both Reprint and Revised text are given when necessary. Thus, V. iii. 83/95 may be read : Act V., scene iii., line 83 in Revised text (numbered metrically), line 95 in simple Reprint (numbered according to the lines of type].